Have you ever envied someone who won a scholarship contest? Or maybe you doubt that this is possible? Then, how about a Canberra University student who was awarded a $180,000 scholarship in 2014, or Catherine Groschner from Carnegie Mellon University, who won the Churchill Scholarship this year to study at Cambridge?
As the National Center for Educational Statistics claimed, almost 59% of US undergraduates receive grants and scholarships, not to mention lots of opportunities given by other countries. This means you can reduce your costs for studying.
Among a great variety of scholarships offered, you’re likely to come across the ones that only require you to submit a well-thought-out essay. If you’ve already applied for similar scholarships and didn’t succeed, don’t get down on yourself. Failures will help you learn what errors to avoid in the future and take you one step closer to victory. So, what should you do to bring more luck? Below, you’ll find a list with the most typical mistakes and advice on how to avoid them.
Eligibility for the scholarship contest
The eligibility section is an integral part of every scholarship contest and should be taken into account before anything else. Ignoring it means you will never know whether your qualification, average grades or country of origin are appropriate to take part in the competition.
Essay scholarships are not too difficult to be won, though if you start writing without considering your eligibility, you might simply spend your time in vain. Your essay won’t be accepted. Is that the result you want to get? Probably not. Then, the best way out seems to be quite obvious: Draw a list of key scholarship eligibility criteria and check it thoroughly each time you find a scholarship you are interested in pursuing.
The things that should be included on your checklist in the first place are the following:
• undergraduate or postgraduate degree,
• courses/programs enrolled,
• graduation year, etc.
So, by making sure you fit all the requirements, you can move on to the next stage: familiarizing yourself with the essay requirements.
Not paying attention to essay requirements
This is another reason so many scholarship essays are rejected. When getting ready to write, ensure you’ve checked how many words the essay should contain, what topics are suggested and if there’s a chance to come up with your own, what essay type you need to submit, what points should be included in it, how many sources and quotes you are allowed to use, and what are the format guidelines.
Don’t miss a single point – copy all the mandatory requirements from the essay scholarship page and paste them into a document. Then check off, point by point, as you finish your essay.
Essay body is off-topic
Quite often, when you start crafting an essay, you may begin with one thought in mind and end with a completely different one, or in the worst-case scenario, a contradictory statement. Such a mess can easily confuse judges, and they won’t have a clue as to what you intended to say, and will have to turn your work down.
With few sentences up to the point, you won’t be able to compete with other applicants as well, since you do not fully cover the topic and mention unrelated statements instead.
What can help you to never repeat similar mistakes? It’s a clear essay plan, where all the ideas should be introduced in logical order. For that, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Apply already-suggested essay structures, which will be the most suitable for your essay type, and read essay structure guidelines published by renowned universities or other educational institutions.
Not checking an essay for originality
Even if you do not belong to those who tend to copy-paste ideas from the Internet, books, etc., you still can repeat someone else’s thoughts by accident. This may happen when your long-term memory interferes with your creative writing process. You don’t even suspect certain ideas or phrases to be said by another person… Unfortunately, this can be interpreted as plagiarism, which is unacceptable in the academic world and particularly in essays, too.
How can these pitfalls be prevented? The answer is a plagiarism checker. Most of us do research online, and that’s why you’ll need tools such as Unplag, or Plagiarism Detect, which can scan your work across numerous Internet sources and timely prompt you which of them you need to cite and quote.
Overlooking grammar or/and spelling mistakes
Do you often rely on built-in spelling and grammar checkers? Most of us do, but they don’t help us in all cases. The built-in checkers are not yet capable of recognizing all possible instances of incorrect usage of articles, or grammar tenses, or suggest choosing a different synonym for a particular phrase or sentence.
That’s why you should have a few people for proofreading help. These can be your peers. By mixing up various editing techniques, you may even learn how your essay could sound even better than it sounds now: reading the essay back to front, or recording your essay text while reading it aloud and then listening to it to make necessary corrections.
Writing style is unacceptable
Here, two extremes are quite popular: too sophisticated of a writing style or, on the contrary, too conversational of a tone, with slang or some misplaced jokes. The rule of thumb is: whenever you hesitate, contact the scholarship facilitator to alleviate your doubts. Being in a hurry to submit an essay as it is without clarifying your questions, you again risk being rejected. So, take the time to ask questions.
Missing out on a submission deadline
You choose a number of scholarships and begin to work on several essays simultaneously… What is one of the possible outcomes? Failing to submit your applications before the deadline arrives.
Another explanation for missing deadlines is the lack of attention. That is why you should get in the habit of making a brief info list for each scholarship you’d like to participate in, and, of course, set two reminders: one for the week before the deadline and another closer to the deadline date to send your application.
Providing incorrect contact or personal details
When contact details are incorrect, you deprive yourself of any chance of success. You will never know that you are the one who won a $2,000 scholarship that could have helped you cover your expenses. To prevent that, double-check your email, phone, Skype name, etc. before submission.
Failing to get feedback on your previous essay
If you have no idea why your previous essay was rejected, you’re likely to make the same mistakes. To prevent hitting the same pitfalls, don’t be afraid to find out why your submission wasn’t successful. Knowing this, you’ll understand what kind of skills to develop or what to practice. Sometimes disregard of your previous downfalls and lack of desire to change could be the main reason why your scholarship was rejected one more time. Besides, some contests allow you to resubmit essays in case your first try was unsuccessful. So, the more you ask, the closer you come to success. Good luck!